Tribute to Justice VCRAC Crabbe – The ‘Grandfather’ of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution

Justice Crabbe’s claim to the status of ‘grandfather’ of our Constitution can be traced to the heady days of celebrating Ghana’s independence. When on 6th March 1957 Nkrumah proudly proclaimed Ghana’s independence to an ecstatic and jubilant crowd at the Polo Grounds in Accra, Justice Crabbe and a colleague were closeted in an office at the AG’s Department and engrossed in the arduous task of drafting legal instruments to give effect to the newly-acquired sovereign status.

However, Justice Crabbe’s ‘grandfather’ status will be more evident when we consider the evolution of our liberal constitutional order from 1969.

Students of the 1992 Constitution will readily appreciate the indebtedness of that Constitution to the provisions of the 1969 and 1979 Constitutions. And there can be little doubt about the pivotal role of Mr. Justice Crabbe in the drafting of these documents. He was the Constitutional Commissioner and principal draftsman for the 1969 Constitution.

He served as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly that deliberated on the provisions of the 1979 Constitution. The above constitutions shaped the broad contours of our liberal constitutional regimes – including a justiciable bill of rights, an independent judiciary, an independent press, and constitutional guarantees for chieftaincy which are all reflected in the 1992 Constitution. Mr. Justice Crabbe therefore left indelible footprints on our constitutional landscape.

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Mr. Justice Crabbe displayed extraordinary versatility in his legal career. Beginning at the Attorney-General’s Department as a Crown Counsel handling prosecutions, he eventually joined the rare breed of legal draftsmen but was ultimately elevated to the Bench – serving as its apex as a Supreme Court Judge. He then reverted to drafting in the international arena, taking scores of legal officers from numerous countries through legislative drafting at establishments in Nairobi, Zimbabwe, Rome and finally in Barbados – where he was inducted as a Professor at the University of West Indies. In short, he was prosecutor, draftsman, judge and professor – a formidable combination of legal expertise.

I first met Justice Crabbe in 1960 as my senior law officer at the Attorney-General’s Department, Accra. He made a profound impression on me as a highly competent law officer, and a disciplined, affable and modest person. Some 15 years later, as Solicitor-General and a short-term consultant for the Commonwealth Secretariat, I had the privilege of recommending him as Director of the Commonwealth Legislative Drafting Programme in West Africa.

His distinguished and dedicated service in that capacity earned his progression to directorship of the Commonwealth Programme in East Africa – and ultimately to directorship of the entire Commonwealth Legislative Drafting Programme based at the University of West Indies in Barbados.

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We in Ghana will always cherish his sterling contributions as a jurist, a seasoned legal draftsman, a prominent craftsman of Constitutions, an election commissioner and a statute law reformer. We should also recognise his impressive international service as a draftsman of the Constitutions of Uganda, Zambia and Kenya, and of the statute for the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

For his scholarly and professional accomplishments, he was elected as a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.

I would like to conclude this tribute by acknowledging, with deep gratitude, Justice Crabbe’s moving and profound contribution to my Festschrift last year.

His incredible service to Ghana, the Commonwealth and the world in the delicate task of erecting the framework of governance in numerous countries will be appreciated and missed by all.

Dear Charlie, Rest in perfect peace.

The writer is the Omanhene of Asante Asokore and Chairman of Ghana Arbitration Centre

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